By Nelson Coffin
With 10 of the 17 players listed on its roster being freshmen, John Carroll coach Hayley Howe is very aware that the 2017-18 Patriots will need time to coalesce this winter.
Even so, the defending A Conference indoor soccer champs jumped out to a 3-1 lead over Garrison Forest on Friday afternoon at Clarence “Du” Burns Arena in Canton before falling to the Grizzlies, 7-4.
Offsetting an early goal by Garrison’s Carrington George, the Patriots went a three-goal binge midway through the first half on a pair of tallies by sophomore Nia Christopher and one by Erin Scannell.
After that, though, senior goalie Madison Wilson and defenders Keeley Lavin and Maddie Morris buckled down to keep the upstart Patriots at bay until freshman Ellie Hollin banged in a shot from point-blank range with just 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
And while John Carroll was being blanked, the Grizzlies’ offense went into full attack mode, scoring six straight goals — four of them by sophomore Amanda McLeod — to up their record to 2-0.
McLeod said that a goal by Cassidy Riley that shaved the deficit to 3-2 inspired her to pump in four straight goals.
“I think when Cassidy scored, it got my hopes up,” she said.
Her first goal deflected off the hand of John Carroll freshman keeper Caitie Brooks, whose 14 saves helped to keep the score reasonably close.
McLeod’s next one was a flat-out power stroke from the red line that could not have been more perfectly placed into the far corner.
Moreover, the blast put Garrison ahead for good, 4-3.
To close out the half, McLeod bombed in another long shot from just inside the red line.
The advantage doubled to 6-3 after McLeod put a few touches on a ball before slotting it in from the top of the circle.
Garrison Forest coach Ian Abrey said that his team’s early woes were easily explained.
“We stopped doing what we do really well,” he said. “We needed to find our organization again.”
And that was made more difficult by both Garrison’s play and the fact that Abrey only had one sub for the contest.
Howe could relate.
She said that she was in a similar predicament in last year’s championship match against Mercy.
On Friday, she had plenty of reserves on the bench against a rival with significantly more experience.
“It was our first game, and many of the girls have never played the sport before,” she said. “So, it was all new to them. But that’s what’s great about playing every team twice. You get to see how they play.”
Howe had to feel good that her young bunch managed four goals against Wilson (13 saves), who she called a “fantastic” goalie.
“We can build off this,” she said. “We lost a lot of players to graduation, but we have a really good core group. We just have to be a little more creative on offense, and that will come with time.”